Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Health Care Updates 8/2

Health Care Reform

A recent study increased employer cost due to the passage of health care reform legislation based on the experience of Massachusetts state health care reform. The study's authors predict an increase of at least 2.2% over medical trend and site employer increases of 21.7% over the two years after reform was enacted.

Despite the cost projections, a recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans(IFEBP) found that (87%) employers remain confident that they will continue to offer health care benefits to their active employees because they are critical to employee recruitment, retention and remaining competitive.

The CLASS Act (Long-Term Care)

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, part of health care reform, establishes a federal insurance program to provide benefits to workers who become disabled and retirees. The CLASS program will pay some nonmedical expenses of long-term care, such as an aide to bathe them or prepare meals at home, or to defray some of the costs of nursing home care.

The program is voluntary, and will be funded by premiums paid by workers.

Employers who choose to participate have the option to automatically enroll their employees and to deduct the premiums from their paychecks. Individual employees will be allowed to opt out, and those who work for nonparticipating employers will have the option to enroll individually.

Average monthly premiums will start at $123 in 2011. After five years of premium payments, participants will be eligible for a projected benefit of about $75 per day ($27,375 annually). They can receive the inflation-adjusted benefit for the rest of their lives, as long as the limitations remain. Full guidance on the program is still forthcoming.

State Benefits Topics

San Francisco Health Care Ordinance

The Supreme Court let the San Francisco Health Care Ordinance stand by declining to listen to arguments that the law was pre-empting ERISA. That officially ends the legal challenge on the law and paves the way for other local entities to enact their own taxation on health care.

Massachusetts and Defense of Marriage Act

In two cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for DOMA to limit federal recognition of marriage to opposite-sex spouses. In once case, same-sex couples sued to challenge DOMA on the grounds that it deprived them of various benefits available to opposite-sex spouses (including the federal employees’ health plan and Social Security benefits). In the other case, the state of Massachusetts sued to challenge DOMA because it deprived same-sex spouses married under Massachusetts law from enjoying many federal benefits (including the right to be buried next to a deceased spouse in any military cemetery funded by the Veterans Administration) and imposed burdens on the state (including the need to impute income when providing health coverage to the same-sex spouses of state employees).

Industry Trends

· Aon Corporation and Hewitt Associates, Inc. announced that the boards of directors of both companies have approved a definitive agreement under which Hewitt will merge with a subsidiary of Aon.

· In its 2010 U.S. Employer Health Insurance Plan Study, J.D. Power, found that employers place more emphasis on plan-service experience, account servicing, product offering/product design and problem resolution than on cost/cost management. http://www.jdpower.com/Healthcare/ratings/member-health-plan-ratings

· Health Net is required to pay $250,000 to settle the first ever state HIPAA privacy suit. The Connecticut lawsuit stemmed from a May 14, 2009, theft of a portable computer disk drive from Health Net's Shelton, Conn., office. The disk contained PHI, Social Security numbers and bank account numbers on about 446,000 past and present enrollees, and Health Net first posted a notice on its Web site and started notifying affected individuals on Nov. 30, 2009, the state alleged.

Wellness Research

· Engaging Employees on Wellness

· Employer Wellness Initiatives Grow, but Effectiveness Varies Widely

Health Applications (for Android)

· Hands Only CPR (American Heart Association): Search for "Hands-Only CPR" in the Market. (Free)

· Medic ID: Stores emergency medic alert information (including medical history, insurance info and emergency contacts), allowing medical personnel to retrieve important information in an emergency. ($1.50)

· Absolute Fitness: Log exercise, weight and diet goals. Export data to multiple formats and online backup of data. ($4.99)

· Sleep logger: Tracks sleep time. (Free)

· TouchBreath: Relaxation exercises to improve breathing and lung function. ($4.95)

· ICE: In case of emergency information for first responders and hospital staff. ($2.99)